“We see a hundred businesses a day applying to us,” says Bill Morrow, CEO of Angels Den. “The ones that get funding, the ones that actually stand out, are the ones that have the story, who can communicate the passion, who at the same time as the passion can also communicate what the key parts of the business are. Do you actually understand your business?”
Angels Den, a crowdfunding and mentor-matching platform for UK SMEs, has seen £18m invested to date and draws crowds of hopefuls at industry functions such as today’s Elite Business Event in Shoreditch, London,
While the organisation carefully pre-vets all of the small businesses involved, Morrow says that, in reality, first impressions sway an investor more than any other factor.
“We give people four minutes usually at our major pitching events every month. Four minutes! And people say, oh you don’t understand, my business is so special, I couldn’t possibly condense it down to four minutes,” he says.
“But actually, as with most human communication, when you’re recruiting people, or when you fall in love with someone, it’s the first 30 seconds. It’s about the way that you’re carrying yourself, the way that you’re dressed, it’s the way that your breath smells, the way that you’re looking at people as you hand across a business card, whether your hands are clammy – just the way that you come across.”
This means that business owners seeking funding need to go beyond explaining their products, services and growth potential. They need to be clear in their own minds on what kind of company they are and why they are doing what they’re doing – and they need to be adept at articulating that in very few words.
“I always say… be honest, tell me how you got here!” enthuses Karen Gould, Facilitator and Mentor at Rockstar Group.
“I feel that it’s very important that you tell it the way it is. I find that if you say it with your passion, and your drive, and it’s something that feels real to you, then the audience connect and they feel that you’re actually talking from the heart – it’s not just something you’ve put together from a textbook.
“We want to know who you are, what it is you do, what it is you do so well, what it is you do different, and what it is that you do that’s going to be better than your competitors.”
Putting across a sense of who you that will engage and excite investors – or, indeed customers – is not something you can fake, however. It needs to be genuine, and that means avoiding a pitfall that many companies fall into, whereby they try to use marketing ploys as a proxy for personality. As Morrow brusquely explains, this is an expensive waste of time.
“The ones that do the business aren’t the ones that hand out the free jelly beans, aren’t the ones that have crazy little toys you give away,” he says, referring to the lengths that some businesses go to at trade fairs and conventions.
“There are some people that spend a fortune on gimmicks, but if you ask people what is in the stand, what is the company about – what even is the company – they have no idea! It’s about that human interaction and being able to tell people what problem it is that you can solve for them – identifying the people that have that problem and then telling them why you’re the best company to do it.”
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